The Caliph Ali (Muhammad’s son-in-law) had 11 wives and 19
slave concubines. Muhammad’s grandson, Hassan, married 70
women and had at least 31 children.
Muhammad also authorised “temporary marriages” (“for three
nights or more”). Thereafter the man could desert the “wife”
leaving her without any rights or obligations – even with regard to
any offspring, who would have no claim to inheritance or support).
By approving of polygamy, mistresses , 9 year old “brides” and
“temporary marriages”, for example, Islam denies the value of a
genuine marriage, based on exclusive, lifelong, devoted love.
Polygamy also erodes the concept of a Biblical family.
Christianity has always maintained that monogamy
alone gives the recognition, status and value that a
woman needs, and the environment for raising
children in a stable and loving home.
The Depravity of Rome
Few people appreciate how highly promiscuous and depraved
cultures were before the advent of Christianity.
British historian, Edward Gibbon, stated in his “History of the
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” that marital faithfulness in
the Roman Empire was virtually unknown.
Not only were adultery and fornication common,
but obscene sexual practices were prevalent.
Even the most depraved and obscene sexual acts were
shamelessly illustrated on household items such as lamps, bowls,
cups and vases.
The Romans and Greeks also exercised and bathed publicly in
The Roman writer, Ovid, noted that sexual relations had become
sadistic and masochistic.
referred to the
group sex –
wait on his
Tiberius also had male and
female prostitutes openly
engage in group sex as
entertainment for his pleasure.
The Emperor Caligula was given to incest with all of his sisters,
engaged in sex while he ate,
and often had people tortured during his orgies.
The Emperor Titus surrounded himself with all manner of
The Emperor Domitian
engaged in incestuous
had a harem of 300
concubines and 300
young boys to satisfy his
paedophilia was rampant
in Rome and Greece.
Tiberius, Nero, Galba, Hadrian, Commodus, and many other
emperors engaged in widespread homosexual perversions and
what would today be classified as child molestation.
Decadent plays, including live sex, mutilation and bestiality on the
stage, became common during the reigns of Nero and Trajan.
Double Standards And Hypocrisy
The Roman lex Julia de Adulteriis defined adultery only on the
basis of the marital status of the woman.
A married man could not be guilty of adultery if he had sex with a
single woman. Adultery was perceived as a crime that only a
woman could commit against the husband.
In Roman law adultery was a property crime against the husband,
not an ethical issue which applied to either single or married men.
A Revolution of Love
Into this decadent environment the Christian message and
lifestyle came as radical, revolutionary and very offensive.
“You shall not commit adultery” Exodus 20:14;
“Marriage should be
honoured by all, and the
marriage bed kept pure,
for God will judge
the adulterer and
all the sexually immoral”
“The husband should fulfil his marital duty towards his wife,
and likewise the wife to her husband” 1 Corinthians 7:3;
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” Ephesians
5:21; “Be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat
them with respect” 1 Peter 3:7.
– A Christian Innovation
Not only did the Christians maintain that marriage should be
between one man and one woman for life, but they insisted that
sexual relations had to be confined to marriage.
They also believed that the sex act made the couple “one flesh.”
This very radical concept required married couples
to remain totally faithful to one another.
Extramarital sex was not only unfaithfulness to one’s marriage
partner, but it was in violation of God’s express command
and it did violence to the “one flesh” concept.
By rejecting polygamy, adultery, fornication, public nudity, and the
artistic portrayal of sexual acts, either openly, on stage or
graphically portrayed on household items, the Christians instituted
an entirely new sexual morality.
As secular historian
Edward Gibbon declared:
“The dignity of marriage was
restored by the Christians.”
(The Decline and Fall of the
Christianity greatly elevated the world’s sexual morality. By
opposing adultery, fornication, homosexuality, child molestation,
bestiality and other sexual decadence, Christianity made a
contribution to civilisation that was unprecedented.
It was as a result of the tireless work of Christians that by the 5th
Century the wife was able to divorce an adulterous husband –
something which had never before occurred in the Ancient World.
Christianity equalised the crime of adultery and brought dignity
and beauty to the formal wedding ceremony.
Prior to Christianity marriage ceremonies were anything but
dignified. In keeping with the low regard of women and marriage
as a whole, obscene songs, mockery and open displays of
extreme decadence were part and parcel of Roman weddings.
However, from the 4th Century, Christianity brought about a
revolution in the state’s view of marriage, introducing a dignity,
beauty and solemnity to weddings which had never before been
The belief that marriage
is a Divine institution
– a sacrament –
stems from Christianity
(The History of Marriage,
by Edward Westermarck).
Protecting Children From Paedophilia
The abhorrence which Western society still generally holds for
paedophilia (the sexual molestation of children) is a direct result of
Christianity. Prior to Christianity, paedophilia and homosexuality
were completely accepted by Roman and Greek society.
Roman and Greek plays,
and even the writings of
reveal an acceptance,
and often an obsession,
The Roman emperors Tiberius, Nero, Galba, Hadrian,
Commodus, amongst many others, were renowned for their
numerous homosexual liaisons with children.
Bisexuality, perversion and sexual deviance was widespread
throughout the pagan culture of the Greeks and Romans.
The Pagan Practise of Perversion
Walter Williams in his book
“The Spirit and the Flesh”
sympathetically focuses on the
amongst the American Indians:
The Kwakiutl, Crows,
Sioux, Navajo, Zuni, Yokuts and other tribes in the Americas all
practiced homosexuality before Christianity came to the Americas.
Often homosexual acts were part of the religious ceremonies
performed by the shamans.
It was the clear Biblical teaching against such
immorality that revolutionised Western civilisation:
“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman;
that is detestable.” Leviticus 18:22;
“If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of
them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be
put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” Leviticus 20:13;
“Do not be deceived; neither the sexual
immoral nor idolaters, nor adulterers,
nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual
offenders, nor thieves, nor the greedy,
nor drunkards, nor slanderers,
nor swindlers will inherited
the Kingdom of God.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-10;
“The wrath of God is being revealed from Heaven against all
the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the
truth by their wickedness…shameful lusts. Even their women
exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.
In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations
with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men
committed indecent acts with other men, and received in
themselves the due penalty for their perversion…they have
become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and
They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They
are gossips, slanderers, God haters, insolent, arrogant and
boastful. They invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their
parents, they are senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.
Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who
do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do
these very things but also approve of those who practice
them.” Romans 1:18-32.
It is a historical fact that the outlawing of adultery, homosexuality,
paedophilia, and other immorality, is the result of the influence of
The Biblical doctrine that sexual intimacy was a holy gift of God –
only to be enjoyed between a husband and wife within the context
of marital privacy – was a revolutionary Christian concept.
Historians note that the Christian concern for the privacy of marital
sex essentially led to the institutionalisation of privacy. Privacy has
strong Christian roots. (“Privacy In A Public Society”, by Richard
Hannah Arendt in “The Human Condition” maintains that
“there is a marked relationship between the rise of Christianity
and the rise of privacy.”
A Temple of the Holy Spirit
The Christian teaching that “the body is not meant for sexual
immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” 1
Corinthians 6:13, and that the body is “a temple of the Holy Spirit”
1 Corinthians 6:19
led Christians to condemn, and in time to outlaw:
adultery, paedophilia, homosexuality, bestiality, pornography and
other decadence which had once been prevalent
and accepted in pre-Christian cultures.
St. Augustine in “The City of God” observed that the Romans
despised the Christians because of Christian opposition to their
unrestrained sexual depravities.
The church father Tertullian noted the Romans were
so incensed by Christian opposition to their immoralities
that they hated the very name “Christian.”
Professor Alvin Schmidt in his
“How Christianity Changed
the World” observes:
“The hateful attitudes that were
once directed against the early
Christians seem to be returning,
and for similar reasons, despite
the current attention given to
Increasingly, Christians are hated by many who advocate ‘hate
crime’ laws. In large measure, they are hated because they seek
to honour God and His laws rather than ‘re-define god as our
future selves’…as feverish efforts are underway to bring back the
sexual debauchery of ancient paganism.”
were not permitted
to leave their house
by a male escort.
When guests were present in the home, the wife was not
permitted to eat at the same table or interact with the guests.
The wife had to be unseen and confined to her quarters
The average Athenian woman had the social status of a slave.
Whereas the husband could divorce the wife at any time, the wife
could not divorce her husband. Girls did not go to school at all.
Throughout a woman’s entire life she was not permitted to speak
As Sophocles wrote: “Silence is an adornment to women”;
Euripides asserted: “Silence and discretion are most beautiful in
women and remaining quiet within the house”.
Aristotle declared: “Silence gives grace to women”.
Homer wrote: “Speech shall be for men”.
Homer wrote: “One cannot trust women!”
Euripides wrote: “Women, specious curse to man”.
Aeschylus wrote: “Evil of mind are they, and
guileful of purpose, with impure hearts”.
Aristophanes wrote: “For women are a shameless
set, the vilest of creatures going”.
Greek civilisation accorded an extremely low status to women, not
allowing them to have any meaningful social life in public, or in the
presence of men, even in private.
Women had little or no social value in Ancient Greece.
Female infanticide was commonplace.
Baby girls were expendable.
Female babies were seen as
“an economic liability, a social burden”
(Under the Influence).
Women in Ancient Rome
Similarly, in Roman society women had none of the rights and
privileges that men enjoyed. Roman wives were not allowed to be
present with a husband’s guest at a meal.
A married woman was under the Roman law of Manus which
placed her under the absolute control of her husband who could
divorce her, or sell her into slavery, or kill her at will. A woman
under Manus was legally prohibited from inheriting property.
Under Patria Potestas women were prohibited from speaking in
public. Women were not allowed to speak in court.
Under the Roman law of Paterfamilias, a man had supreme,
absolute power over his children. He could even execute his
married daughter. He had full authority to chastise, even to beat to
death, his wife, even his grown children, including grand-children.
Freedom In Christ
These laws were strongly
criticised by the early church
the bishop of Hippo.
From the very beginning, the Christians opposed infanticide and
rescued and adopted many of the abandoned babies.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male
nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Women in Hebrew Culture
This Christian teaching was not only radical
in the Ancient Greek and Roman world,
but also in the Hebrew culture prevalent at that time.
The Rabbinic Oral Law (now recorded in the Talmud and
Midrash) not only barred women from speaking in public
and reading the Law (Torah),
but women were also forbidden from testifying in court.
As one Rabbinic teaching put it: “It is shameful” to hear a woman’s
voice in public (Berakhoth 24A). Another Rabbinic teaching
asserted: “Let the words of the Law (Torah) be burned rather than
be committed to a woman…If a man teaches his daughter the
Law, it is as though he taught her lechery” (Sotah 3.4)
For this reason synagogue worship was meant to consist only of
male participants. Women, if present, were to be passive listeners,
separated from the men by a “michetza” (partition). These women
were never to raise their voices.
Only the men were to do the singing or chanting. It was only by
the late 18th Century in Reformed synagogues that Jewish
women were permitted to sing.
So, when Mary came and sat at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42), not
only was she being a cultural deviant, but so too was the Lord
Jesus, because he clashed with the Rabbinic teachings of His
When her sister Martha complained about her not helping her,
Jesus again violated Rabbinic teaching by siding with Mary and
commending her for desiring teaching about God’s Law.
At the grave of Lazarus, Jesus taught Martha:
“I am the Resurrection and the Life.
He who believes in Me will live even though he dies;
and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.
Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
Under Rabbinic law, to teach a woman was bad enough, but the
Lord Jesus did more than that, He called for a public verbal
response from Martha.
The Samaritan Woman
Similarly, the way in which the Lord Jesus interacted with the
Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) may not appear so unusual
to Westerners today. Yet, to the prevailing Greek, Roman and
Hebrew cultures of that time, our Lord’s actions must have been
Jesus not only
ignored the Jewish
but He violated the
customs that prohibited
a man from speaking
to a woman that was
not a relative.
The Samaritan woman herself was shocked:
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.
How can you ask me for a drink?
(for Jews do not associate with Samaritans)” John 4:9.
The Rabbinic law of the time was quite explicit: “He who talks with
a woman in public brings evil upon himself” (Aboth 1.5). And “One
is not so much as to greet a woman” (Berakhoth 43b).
One can imagine then why the Lord’s “disciples were surprised to
find Him talking with a woman” John 4:27.
New Respect and Status
By the Lord Jesus granting women a previously unknown respect
and status He not only broke with the anti-female culture of His
era, but He set a high standard for His followers to emulate.
The actions and teachings of Jesus raised the status of women
to new heights,
to the consternation
and dismay of both His friends and enemies.
By word and deed Christ went against the ancient accepted
practices that stereotyped women as socially, intellectually and
Truly our Lord came “that you may have life,
and have it in abundance” John 10:10.
And “indeed there are those who are last who will be first,
and first who will be last.” Luke 13:30
The Gospels record that
many women followed Jesus
(Mark 15:41; Luke 8:1-3).
And after His Resurrection
from the dead, our Lord first
appeared to several women
(including Mary Magdalene,
Joanna and Mary the mother
of James Luke 24:10).
“Then Jesus said to them:
‘Do not be afraid.
Go and tell My brothers…”
It is noteworthy that women were the last at the Cross
“Nympha and the church in her house” (Colossians 4:15);
Phoebe “a servant of the Church in Cenchrea…
she has been a great help to many people including me.”
In His epistles, the apostle Paul mentions numerous female
“Priscilla…and her fellow workers in Christ Jesus” Romans 16:3;
“…Mary, who worked very hard for you.” Romans 16:6;
“Tryphema and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the
Lord…Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the
Lord.” Romans 16:12;
“…Euodia and…Syntyche…the women who have contended at
my side in the cause of the Gospel along with Clement and the
rest of my fellow workers…” Philippians 4:2-3
Freedom and Dignity
As Dr. Schmidt ( How Christianity Changed the World)
observes: “Jesus, Paul and the early Church broke the ancient
bonds that kept women secluded and silent
(as in Athenian society),
subservient (as under Roman law of Patria Potestas & Manus),
and silent and segregated in public worship
(as in the Jewish culture).
The freedom and dignity that the early Christians gave to women
is also evident by their having access equal with men
to baptism and the Lord’s Supper
… Christ’s message of repentance and salvation proclaimed by
the Apostles had revolutionary effects on the lives of women.
The early Christians not only included women in the life of the
Church, but they also gave them a freedom and dignity unknown
in the Greco-Roman and Judaic cultures.”
Far from Christianity being “anti-women” as many critics
allege, women in the early Church soon outnumbered
men to such a degree that there were simply not enough
Christian men available for marriage.
Celsus, a 2nd Century critic of Christianity ridiculed the believers
by saying that Christianity was a religion that attracted women.
To him this was a sign of weakness.
Numerous Roman authors
and freedom to women
as a threat to
the entire social order.
Christianity revolutionised marriage by seeing the wife as a
partner, commanding husbands to love their wife as Christ loved
the Church (Ephesians 5:25), and allowing Christian women the
choice as to whom they married.
Christianity also granted women the right to divorce
unfaithful or abusive husbands. Women also received
for the first time guardianship over their children who
previously were the sole possession of the man.
Removing the Veil
Christianity also pioneered other freedoms for
women including the removal of the veil.
Women at the time of Christ were veiled by the Assyrians,
Babylonians, Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, Hebrews, Romans and
There were cases of Romans divorcing their wives for leaving the
house unveiled. Greek women were required to wear a veil after
Even among the
Hebrews, the rabbi’s
taught that it is a
“godless man who
sees his wife go out
with her head
uncovered. He is duty
bound to divorce her”
However, the lack of any specific reference in the Gospels, or
anywhere in the New Testament, to women having to veil their
face, led the Church to increasingly discontinue the practice.
While Paul in 1 Corinthians 11
urged the women in Corinth
to cover their heads in church,
he made no reference to veiling their faces.
And in 1 Timothy 2:8-9 where Paul tells the women
to dress modestly, and not to elaborately braid their hair,
he makes no mention of any veil.
Christianity has led
with the veil.
Freedom From Foot Binding
Similarly, the Chinese practice of foot binding,.
where girls from an early age had to
have their feet tightly bound forcing
the four smaller toes of each foot up
and under against the fleshly part of
(frequently causing severe infection
and even on occasion gangrene)
was only abolished under the influence of Christianity.
This cruel custom, which crippled many Chinese women,.
was only outlawed by the Chinese government in 1912.
It was Christian missionaries who led the crusade
to abolish foot binding in China.
Barbaric Rituals Abolished
The widespread practice of clytoridectomy (often erroneously
called female circumcision) is another cruel age old cultural
practice, which has been outlawed in all countries where
Christianity has become the majority religion.
The only countries in the world where this barbaric ritual is still
practiced are countries where Christianity has little or no
Saving Widows From Suttee
Before the coming of Christ, widows were ostracised, despised
and frequently buried or burned alive at their husband’s death. For
countless centuries India’s cultural custom of suttee (or sati), the
burning alive of widows, was an integral part of Hindu culture.
By God’s grace, as a result of the tireless efforts of Christian
missionary William Carey, the British authorities
in 1829 outlawed the practice of suttee.
When this ban went into effect, many Indians “cried that the
foundations of Hindu society would be shaken if widows were not
burned alive.” (India – A Short Cultural History).
Others argued that the British ban on suttee violated Article 25 of
India’s constitution that gave people freedom of religion
(Sati, Widow Burning in India).
This legal ban on suttee (known as Carey’s Edict) is still in effect
today, although since the 1990’s there have been numerous
attempts to revive the custom with open glorification of suttee
widow burning and instances of teenage widows being cremated
on their husband’s funeral pyres.
Dr. Schmidt notes: “In light of the current, almost worldwide
promotion of multi-culturalism, which argues that all cultures and
religions are essentially equal, the desire and efforts to bring back
India’s pagan custom of suttee may gain momentum in the future.”
(How Christianity Changed the World ).
History records that, before
the coming of Christianity,
widows were burned by
American Indian tribes,
by the Maori in New Zealand,
and by the Chinese...
Compassion For Widows
However, Jesus had particular compassion on the widows. Christ
rebuked the Pharisees for taking financial advantage of widows
Christ praised the widow who, although poor, gave two coins in
her offering: “I tell you the truth, He said, this poor widow has put
in more than all the others.” Luke 21:3.
Christ had compassion on the widow of Nain
In 1 Timothy 5:3-4, Paul urges Christians
to honour and care for the widows.
In James 1:27 we are
taught that “religion that
God our Father accepts as
pure and faultless is this: to
look after orphans and
widows in their distress.”
When one understands how atrociously women were once
abused in pre-Christian cultures, then one can understand why
historians have declared that “the birth of Jesus was the turning
point in the history of women” and “the conversion of the Roman
world to Christianity brought a great change in women’s status.”
(Under the Influence)
is to be
A Legacy Of Liberty
Because of the teachings and actions of our Lord Jesus Christ
over the centuries Christianity has progressively achieved for
women greater respect, dignity, honour and protection.
It is to Christianity that we owe marriage as a mutual partnership,
the rejection of polygamy, and the promotion of monogamy and
marital faithfulness as the cultural ideal.
In granting women respect, dignity and protection, Christianity
broke with the prevalent anti-female prejudices of the Ancient
world, of pagan cultures and Eastern religions.
All the freedoms and advantages which women enjoy today are
as a result of the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and the
progressive work through the centuries – of the Church.
However, if present anti-Christian trends continue
one could see a return to the previous pagan
abuses of women.
Those advocating pornography, sexual permissiveness,
homosexual “marriages”, legalised prostitution, lowered age of
consent and the decriminalisation of adultery are not offering us
progress but only a return to pre-Christian paganism.
“…remember the Lord
Who is great
and fight for…
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74
Cape Town, South Africa
Tel: (021) 689-4480
Fax: (021) 685-5884
For More Information:
Christian Action Network
Tel: (021) 689 4481